In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, it was amazing how one of the biggest stories happened to be the match ball. Now, as one of the most infamous pieces of soccer equipment of all time, the Jabulani has found a niche audience in free-kick video makers that need the unpredictable flight pattern in order to make their videos watchable. However, the Brazuca has not faced any of the issues that plagued the Jabulani, but is it because the ball is that much better than its World Cup predecessor?
For adidas, the goal of 2014 would be to have a unique ball that was able to intrigue anyone in the market for a match ball without being intriguing for all the wrong reasons. The Brazuca certainly fits the bill of “unique,” and it has definitely not been given the grief that the Jabulani received. However, is the Brazuca benefiting from the style of play in a way that the Jabulani was unable to do? In 2010, the games were low-scoring and the games lacked truly dangerous shots on target. But, while it is impossible to say that the Jabulani was not flawed, would it have faced the same pressures at this current tournament?
The Brazuca is benefiting from the style of play in Brazil. Teams are attacking and playing with a desire for three points instead of the feeling from 2010 where teams felt like they were merely playing to avoid making huge mistakes. A 1-1 draw between the United States and England in 2010 felt like a high-scoring affair! Still, take this into consideration with the Brazuca. Nobody has scored a single free-kick goal up to this point (8.33 days in), long-distance efforts have been relatively non-existent and long-distance goals are as rare as non-citizen Spain fans right now. The raging humidity in Brazil would also keep any ball from hanging a bit too long on cross-field passes (look up how weather affects any sports ball), and the altitude of games in Brazil are not up against the issues of South Africa.
While extensive testing by us here at The Instep has us feeling that the Brazuca is a superior ball to the Jabulani, adidas are definitely taking full advantage of how the World Cup has turned out. We have zero doubts that if the scores and play had been similar in 2010, the Jabulani might have survived the “black mark” that it definitely received. It is amazing how quickly certain situations can erase any perceived “issues” with products that were initially decried by reviewers. Wipe away your tears Jabulani…you will always have your cult following…for some reason…